A nutritional supplement that contains live bacteria - known as a probiotic - may help burn off some of that stubborn visceral belly fat, according to a new study published in the Journal of Functional Foods.
This study was funded by Micropharma, which makes probiotic supplements.
The results indicate that this probiotic could be an effective weight loss tool. Normally we digest most of the food and absorb most of the calories we consume. Because this probiotic supplement interfered with intestinal fat absorption, fewer calories become available to pack on the belly fat.
However, it’s worth noting that this study only looked at a small number of people who were only slightly overweight to begin with. The slimming effect was also modest.
In other words, people aren't going to be able to just eat probiotics to reduce weight and there’s no reason to believe that probiotics will eliminate the need to maintain proper lifestyle habits, such as a healthy diet and exercise.
The term probiotic means ‘for life’.
Probiotics are beneficial forms of gut bacteria - found mainly in cheese, yogurt, fermented and unfermented milks, and kefir - that form the basis for microbial populations in the small and large intestines of animals, including us humans, conferring health benefits. Other probiotic containing foods include juices, cereal, smoothies and nutrition bars.
According to health experts, probiotics help with proper digestion of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, boost the immune system, relieve depression and even fight sinus infections.
Some evidence is emerging that probiotic bacteria may help burn fat and could play a role in the treatment and prevention of overweight and obesity.
In this study, 28 overweight volunteers were given a daily serving of yogurt. Half of them were given yogurt spiked with either the bacteria L. fermentum or L. amylovorus. After a month and a half, those who ate the L. fermentum probiotic supplements had lost 3 percent of their body fat, while those who ate L. amylovorus had lost 4 percent of their body fat relative to the study's start. Most of that loss was visceral belly fat.
Visceral belly fat - stored deep inside the body behind the abdominal muscles and surrounding the organs - is biologically active and releases hormones and chemicals called adipokines, which in turn cause more fat gain and muscle loss.
Men typically tend to have more visceral belly fat than women, placing them at a much higher risk for insulin resistance, type II diabetes and heart disease.
The liver secretes soapy chemicals called bile salts, which mix with fat in the intestines and help digest it. This particular probiotic supplement destroys bile salts, which is how it interferes with fat absorption - and unlike other weight-loss drugs that prevent intestinal fat absorption, they didn't cause unpleasant digestive side effects.
The researchers didn't follow the subjects for long, so we don’t know if they kept the pounds off.
Also, it’s worth remembering that not all probiotics burn fat. Each probiotic works in a different way, for totally different results. This particular probiotic supplement reduced belly fat, but other probiotics may do other things.